I got back from Seoul, via Tokyo, yesterday. 20 hours of traveling! Blimey! But it was surprisingly easy. I got the best plane seats without an upgrade (though Continental needs to work on the food situation!). And there were no children with their feet in my face — though I did miss the interesting conversations about elephants and robots — so I arrived sans foot-shaped dent on side of head!
I didn’t mind leaving Tokyo in the end. It was hard hard work and only one day off a week with tons of stuff that I had to do during the day isn’t enough! But I did make some lovely new friends and eat some good food and I got to write a SIX THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO guide for British ELLE for the December issue (so if you go, and want a quick guide, let me know). And I did some Karaoke where, according to the TV screen, I used up 3.1 calories singing “The Crying Game.” Here is a picture of the screen in our individual booth.
Speaking of songs, I got to sing “Diamonds are Forever” for TWO couples in the same week! That’s the $15,000 drink I told you about! Actually, I think I said it was $18,000 and I’m still not sure, sums not being my best subject. The first man bought one for his mistress. They didn’t dress up. They slunk in (as befits one buying an overpriced martini for an “other woman”) and hid in a corner of the bar. “No fuss,” said the man, who apparently only wanted to be “the first” to buy it (kind of says it all, doesn’t it!). They just clinked glasses very casually and it looked like she said something along the lines of: “Thanks for the snack!” (a la B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” where it rhymes with “I gave you seven children, and now you want to give them back!”) and then, after glugging it down, they left, not even holding hands. Perhaps he had done something very, very wrong, and this was the rich beyond wildest dreams equivalent to a normal person’s bunch of flowers apology.
Meanwhile, the other couple …. Well, the husband bought it for their 25th wedding anniversary (that also kind of says it all, in a good way). They came with friends. Friends who may even have been at their wedding. They both looked amazing. The hotel hired a handsome young flamenco guitarist from Barcelona to play with me and I was wearing a got-the-thumbs-up-from-S. jade green silk dress (gets tiring dressing up ALL the time but that night was worth it!) and we were sneaked in to the restaurant next door via the kitchen to do the acoustic rendition of “Diamonds Are Forever” that we had worked out that afternoon.
The husband was beside himself with excitement at having arranged the surprise — MONTHS in advance. And the wife did an AMAZING acting job of pretending she had no idea. In fact, maybe she really didn’t know. Anyway, she did a lot of excellent gasping and furrowing of brow in confusion faces and was crying within seconds of the song starting, before she even knew about the diamond. Then they whisked the drink over (served by TWO young waiters) and plopped the diamond into it (more gasping and eye dabbing) and all their friends applauded, and so did we. Later I overheard the staff describing what had happened to the few staff that had not managed to find a hiding place from which to witness the proceedings themselves. It was quite possibly the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen up close. Surprisingly not corny at all!
Otherwise, no mafia came in during my time there. So no massive tips of diamond-like proportions. But I do have ALL MY FINGERS. And I had an amazing time in Seoul, including a trip to an island where (i) I climbed up a massive mountain with my son (pulling me up the hill by hand — okay, yes, “dragged up” might be a better description) to see a Buddha carved into the rock, (ii) got propositioned by one of the workers (who, very disappointingly, turned out not be a monk, as I should have realized when his question was translated to me as, “Is she a virgin?” — which is how they ask if you are single over there, apparently), and (iii) drank a cup of tea made of pine leaves that was even better than PG Tips.
I also went to my son’s university and took pictures of his office, where one of his students said how young I look — thus securing for herself an A+ on her next essay. I went to the Samsung Museum of Art, where my daughter-in-law is a conservator, and looked at ancient pots that looked like modern art. I was profusely thanked by my daughter-in-law’s parents and sister for giving birth to my son — which I assume means, after six years of marriage, that they don’t have any plans to give him back.Actually, I have to admit, he is pretty cool. I was laden with gifts from the entire family, including his wife’s sister’s mother-in-law, who is a famous Korean artist. And I was invited to live with my children. All fantastic! However, I also discovered the TV show Lost on DVD. An evil addiction along the lines of those IKEA double chocolate biscuits I once warned you about. I know some of you ignored that warning! Oh, and I had a Korean body scrub which would DEFINITELY become an addiction if I lived there. Talk about deep clean! Eek!